The Art of the Unfinished Deal

Monday’s news was ¬†full of the usual ominous legal developments regarding the “Russia thing,” as well the continuing fallout from President Donald Trump’s petty ongoing feud with the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, but there was also a rare story about actual policy matters. Trump has made some progress in his trade negotiations with Mexico, and naturally he was eager to overstate the accomplishment.
The White House press corps was invited to listen in on a congratulatory phone call between Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, and although there were a few embarrassing moments of silence while the staff scrambled to get the line working, both presidents praised what they’ve agreed to thus far and lavishly praised one another. Nieto also said three times in the brief call that he was hopeful Canada will also join in the agreement, which seemed to annoy Trump, and by the end it was clear that a deal had yet to be sealed.
The good news that a more cautious president would have modestly touted is that Mexico has agreed to new trade rules for automobiles, intellectual property rights and labor regulations. Such tweaks to current North American Free Trade Agreement are likely to keep some car-making jobs in the United States and Mexico rather than Asia, make it harder for foreign competitors to steal corporate America’s innovations, although Trump didn’t make a big deal of it many Mexican workers will get a big raise and safer working conditions.
The bad news that a more honest president would have admitted is that the new rules will likely make your next new car more expensive, China and the rest of the worst thieves of America’s inventions aren’t involved in the deal at all, and that the vast non-automotive sectors of the Mexican economy might take a hard hit that sends more Mexicans heading to the cross the border in search of work. Trump didn’t get the concessions he wanted on various tariffs, and he made concessions to Mexico about the length of time before he could renege on the whole deal and start all over again, but he could have made a case that incremental progress had nonetheless been made.
Trump has an unfortunate tendency to spike the football and do his end zone dance just short of the goal line, however, and on Monday he was boasting a great that’s far from done. As much as Trump hates it, NAFTA is still a ratified-by-the-Senate and backed by the full faith of the American government treaty, and Canada is a signatory to that treaty, and given the current state of relations with both trading partners since Trump’s election working out all the details is bound to be tricky. On December 1 Nieto will turn power over to President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and although Obrador was consulted in the negotiations he won office on a promise to take a harder stand against Trump, so things need to be wrapped up quickly. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will also have something to say about it, and so far he’s taken a hard stand in the trade war Trump initiated.
Whatever deal Trump eventually gets will also have to be ratified by the Senate, and the mid-term elections in November could well further complicate that always complicated process.
Still, incremental progress in a long, hard process is an achievement worth noting, and we note that the stock markets were pleased to see a slight lessening of the trade war tensions. It’s not enough to crowed out all the rest of the news, though, and Trump isn’t the sort to make such modest boasts.

— Bud Norman

The Worst Deal Ever Gets Even Worse

Several weeks ago we reached the conclusion that the nuclear accord the Obama administration has reached with Iran is the worst deal ever struck in the history of diplomacy, and since then it looks even worse. There have been revelations of contingent side deals between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran that the administration has signed on to without reading, constant taunts by the Iranians about how they have defeated the western powers and are now free to continue their sponsorship of international terror and pursue nuclear weaponry, and proof that the administration is going headlong into this disastrous deal despite the opposition of a majority of the American public and its elected officials.
The existence of the two side deals was discovered by our very own Kansas’ fourth congressional Rep. Mike Pompeo during a fact-finding mission in Vienna, although he he wasn’t able to learn what the side deals say, just that the administration has apparently agreed to them even though it was also unable to learn what was involved, and given how very awful the known facts of the deal are we’re going to assume the worst about the unknown. In the highly unlikely event that the deals ultimately prove more or less benign there’s still the worrisome fact that the administration is signing off on them without notifying Congress, which strikes us as pretty darned unconstitutional even by the degraded standards of the moment, and the relative lack of attention being paid to this alarming development is an an alarming development in itself.
Then there’s all that gloating by apocalyptic suicide cult running Iran about how it’s nuclear programs and international sponsorship of more low-tech terrorism and general global trouble-making will continue unabated with the blessings of the Americans and their equally gullible western partners. One of the “tweets” by Iran’s “supreme leader” featured a illustration of President Barack Obama committing suicide along with text about predicting the futility of western resistance to Iran’s ambitions of global dominance, which is certainly more extreme than anything the “Tea Party” or any domestic opponents of the administration have ever dared. Even Secretary of State of John Kerry, whose enthusiasm for anti-American barbarism dates all the way back to this days as a hippie protestor of the Vietnam War, admits that he’s “disturbed” by such imagery and language. He’s not so disturbed that he’ll reconsider the disastrous deal he’s made, of course, but it’s a telling admission nonetheless.
Given that this is supposed to be a representative democracy there’s also something troubling about the fact that all the disastrous known deal and the possibly even worse unknown deals are all proceeding despite the fact that a clear majority of the country seems to know better. There are polls that ask the country if they support a deal that would prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting the economic sanctions against that country, with the predictably supportive response, but even those reveal that most Americans somehow understand that this particular deal won’t achieve that that response. There’s perhaps still a slight chance that Israel and the Sunni Arab countries and the western powers within reach of the inter-contentinental ballistic systems that Iran is free to develop under the proposed agreement will somehow survive this awful agreement, but it’s far less likely that our constitutional system of representative democracy will be unscathed.

— Bud Norman

An Awful, Awful Deal

The deal with Iran has been made, and is unlikely to be undone by Congress or public opinion or any last vestige of common sense, but it is awful. It is historically awful, catastrophically awful, worse even than Chamberlain-in-Munich awful, and so awful it would be impossible to overstate its awfulness.
The deal does not require the Iranians to disclose anything regarding their previous efforts at building nuclear weapons, allows them to keep centrifuges spinning, the Arak heavy water reactor and plutonium production plant stays open, as does the fortified underground uranium enrichment facility at Fordow, the country’s missile program also continues, along with its nuclear research and development, rather than being subject to “anywhere, anytime” inspections the regime will be given advance warnings and “consultations” and other courtesies, no procedures are outlined to deal with violations that might somehow be discovered, there is no requirement that the regime halt its support of the Hezbollah terror group or turn over the countless other terrorists under their protection who have struck everywhere from Buenos Aires to Washington, D.C., and it even frees up $150 billion dollars worth of previously frozen assets with another $50 billion of the American taxpayer’s money thrown in as a signing bonus, all of which they can now spend on missiles and other sophisticated weaponry as well as low-tech terrorism because the deal also does away with a longstanding arms embargo. In return, the apocalyptic suicide cult has promised the Great Satan that it won’t acquire any nuclear bombs for at least 10 years, and they seem quite pleased with the bargain.
That’s good enough for the president, who is staking his historical reputation on Iran’s mad mullahs at long last keeping a promise, but the Israelis and the Sunni Arabs are within closer range of those ballistic missiles and have even more at stake, and they’re not at all reassured by the deal. Perhaps that’s also because they’re more familiar than the Madrassa-educated president with such Islamic concepts as hudna, meaning a tactical retreat disguised as a peace agreement, and taqqiya, a Koranic loophole that countenances lies told in the furtherance of Islam, and they don’t have the modern left’s peculiar notion that the only religious fanaticism afoot in the world is some Baptist confectioners who don’t care to bake a gay wedding cake, and they’ve not been able to avoid noticing Iran’s decades-old bellicosity. Even if the mad mullahs conclude that armageddon can wait another 10 years they’ll be just as troublesome in the meantime, and not only does the deal do nothing about it gives them more money and international legitimacy to keep doing blowing up Jewish centers in South America and plant roadside bombs in Afghanistan and lob rockets into Israeli schoolyards and prop up equally troublesome regimes fund those fervent rallies where everyone chants “Death to America.” The administration would have us believe that we can take the Iranian regime as its word when they sign the deal, but not when they’re leading those chants. One can argue that the sanctions never stopped them, but at least such global troublemaking wasn’t being subsidized and excused.
Nothing we’ve read satisfactorily explains why the deal isn’t subject to the Constitution’s requirement of ratification by two-thirds of the Senate, a threshold it would never meet, but everything we’ve read suggests that the best Congress can do is pass a resolution of disapproval that would surely be vetoed and require two-thirds of both chambers to override, another threshold that cannot be met. Any vote that expresses disapproval of the deal will be welcome, however, no matter how futile, because the Iranian regime should at least know that the country isn’t so gullible as its president, nor as willing to assist their rise to regional hegemony. If the deal isn’t a treaty according to the legal definition that would require the Senate’s ratification it’s just a deal, and a resounding vote of disapproval would emphasize that it’s the president’s deal and not the country’s, and just maybe that will help some more clear-eyed president to someday resist rather than facilitate Iran’s insane ambitions. We hope it’s soon, and not too late, as the present policy is awful.

— Bud Norman

The Climate and the Political Climate

Perhaps it would all make perfect sense if only we held the fashionable faith in the gospel of anthropogenic global warming, or the divine omniscience of President Barack Obama, but a reported plan for the administration to go around the usual constitutional requirements and oblige the United States to a treaty that would restrict its carbon emissions and thus save the world from climatic catastrophe seems wrong in every way.
As heretical as it might sound in this devoutly post-religious age, we remain skeptical that there is any anthropogenic global warming going on. Such skepticism is now considered somehow anti-science, an odd state of affairs, but we’ve read the hacked e-mails where the global warming alarmists were alarmed by the 18-year-pause their almighty models didn’t anticipate, and noticed the lack of predicted hurricanes and tornados and other calamities that were confidently predicted but have not materialized on schedule, and find ample reason to suspect the science isn’t so darn settled that we should hobble the American economy because of its tentative conclusions.
Even if there is a problem, there’s no reason to believe that the proposed treaty would solve it. Most countries will ignore it, including such heavy carbon-emitters as China and India as well as such erstwhile economic allies as Australia and Canada, and happily take up whatever profitable and job-creating enterprises the United States high-mindedly relinquishes for the sake of a futile gesture. The New York Times’ hopeful description of the plan says it would “name and shame” countries to force them into compliance, but it’s hard to imagine any country sacrificing economic growth for fear of being named and shamed by Obama. We’re nearly six years into the Age of Obama, and thus far the rest of the world still seems to be acting in its own perceived self-interest without much regard for Obama what thinks about it.
That part about going around the usual constitutional requirements is troubling, too. On issues ranging from those pesky immigrations laws that the president never liked to the eponymous Obamacare legislation that the president himself signed into law, Obama has already drawn criticism not just from his usual Republican critics but also the more principle liberals about his disregard for the constitutional restraints on his power, and this treaty ploy or a rumored amnesty for millions of illegal aliens and especially a combination of the two would have to be considered a constitutional crisis. We rather like the constitution, and would prefer to see it survive the present administration, and we’re sure most liberals would as well if the next administration turns out to be Republican, and a non-solution to a non-problem seems an especially poor reason to jettison such a successful system of governance.
There might be some political advantage that the president stands to gain from the gambit, but we can’t spot it. Heretical skepticism about global warming is widespread, and even most of the people who read about it in the paper and figure it must be true are not going to pleased that Obama has kept his campaign promise to make electricity rates “skyrocket.” Administration officials freely concede that they’ll try to bypass the 67 votes in the Senate that the constitution requires for ratification of a treaty because there’s not a snowball’s chance is global warming that they’ll ever find enough suckers in the chamber to vote for this awful policy, and that implicitly acknowledges that public sentiment is such that even in the most red states even the most entrenched senators would fear the wrath of their constituents. Like the threatened executive action granting amnesty this might be meant to provoke an impeachment, which would rally all those dispirited Democrats who see no reason that Obama shouldn’t be granted dictatorial powers, but he’s picking the fight over stands that the public overwhelmingly oppose and are likely to bring those opponents to the polls in record numbers.
The only explanation is that the president has not only a fashionable but a very sincere belief in the gospel of anthropogenic global warming, and an even more fervent faith in his own divine omniscience. That is not reassuring.

— Bud Norman